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September 2016
1024 778 Andy McFarland

Measuring Your House For Renovation – Step 1

Details On How To Make An As-Built Home Survey- Step 1

One of the tough things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that almost nobody knows what As-Built measuring is!  So I am constantly trying to explain to friends, family and new people that I meet what it is that we do.  But… one of the cool things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that occasionally these same friends and family actually need our services when they are planning a remodel, and their architect asks them for As-Built plans.   So that gives me a chance to show them what we do, and as a pleasant side effect, to feel good about the fact that I have learned a skill which can sometimes be of use to others.

I had just such an opportunity come up last month when I was on a vacation with my family on the East Coast.  We stayed several days with a high school friend and his family, and before we came out he told me that they were planning to remodel a bathroom in their house in Connecticut.  Their interior designer needed an As-Built drawing of the area, but they didn’t have any, and she was going to charge them extra to create them herself since it was over 100 miles away from her office.  I was only too happy to pack a few extra tools in my suitcase so that I could help my friend (and it was the least I could do for a family that was hosting us for almost a week!)

The subject house – nice yard huh?

Admittedly I was a little rusty – I’ve personally measured over a thousand buildings but probably less than 10 in the last 3-4 years.  Plus, I didn’t bring the fancy equipment that our professional surveyors would have with them on a paid project.  So I went “old school” with a few basic tools and some tried and true techniques that I first started using in 2002.  The final plans, if I do say so myself, came out perfectly.  Here’s how I did it:

Every As-Built surveying project has 3 basic parts:

  1. Preparation
  2. Measuring
  3. Drafting

With this article I will talk about #1:  Preparation.  As with most tasks, great preparation is the key to great execution.  Here are a few things to think about when getting ready to measure a house:

  1. Get the right tools. You will need a clipboard, paper (graph paper is best), writing utensils (I suggest mechanical pencil, erasable pen, and multi-color pen – more on that below), and measuring device.  Tape measure will work just fine, but if you plan to do this somewhat frequently, invest a couple hundred dollars in a laser measuring device.


Basic surveying toolkit – laser and toolbelt optional

  1. Figure out your Notation System. You want to be able to read your measurements right?  A little bit of planning here will go a long way in Step 3 – Drafting.  You don’t necessarily need all these things just to measure one house, but they sure will help in the long run.  Here’s a few tips:
    • For Units, use inch/decimal or feet/decimal.  Easier to write and to type into a CAD program. I like inch/decimal, and I round to the nearest tenth of an inch, so for example I would write a measurement of 10’-65/8 as 126.6
    • If some of your numbers look similar, alter them so you can tell them apart. When I am working fast, for example, my “0” and “6” can look the same, so I always make a diagonal slash through the “0” so it never gets mixed up.
    • Write all of the numbers and labels in the same orientation. Do not rotate the clipboard while measuring.
    • Figure out which writing utensils you want to use, and for what. If necessary you can do everything in pencil, but that makes it tougher to see what’s what when you are trying to draft it.  I use pencil for all measurements, erasable blue pen for all structural features (walls, windows, doors etc…), and multi-colored pen for built-ins and other features (black for cabinetry, red for electrical, green for ceiling elements).
  2. Confirm scope of work. Confirm what you need to show on the final plans.  Which areas of the structure, which items to include, which plans (Floor Plans, Elevations, Electrical, etc..)
  3. Do a walkthrough. Prior to sketching or measuring anything, walk through the entire building, inside and out, to get a sense for the configuration/layout, structural elements, areas of focus, etc… This will help greatly with the final step, which is to…
  4. Plan your measuring Strategy. How do you plan to “attack” the measurements.  This includes questions like:
    • Where will you start? How will you proceed through the building?
    • Which way will you orient the sketches?
    • How many sheets will you need? Are you going to fit everything onto 1 sheet or break it up into multiple to allow for more space?
    • Are there any areas of concern such as tricky wall angles, complex features, hard to reach spaces? How will you measure these items?

With your Preparation completed, you should be in good shape to start Step 2 – Measuring the house.  In my next article a week from now, I’ll run through some helpful tips for measuring a house as accurately and efficiently as possible using pad and paper.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!